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What Happens if You Divorce an Immigrant Spouse?

Divorcing an American citizen is complicated enough, but when you are considering divorcing an immigrant spouse, things can get even more complicated. Depending on the length of the marriage, the immigrant spouse could be deported or granted American citizenship.

You may have heard of green cards. So, how do they apply in a marriage with a foreign spouse? If you are in the United States on a green card, what will happen once you and your American spouse divorce?

It may depend on whether or not your marriage is fraudulent. Many people marry foreigners for the wrong reasons. One million foreigners become American residents every year. Approximately 25% of those are through marriage. It is estimated that as many as 15% of those marriages may be fraudulent.

What is a Green Card?

Once a couple marries, the immigrant spouse receives a green card. This allows them to stay in the United States on a conditional basis for two years. Once the relationship has reached the two-year mark, immigration officials will determine if the couple is still together.

If the couple is still married, the immigrant will receive permanent status as an American citizen. If the couple has separated, the spouse will be required to go back to their home country.

Exceptions to Deportation

In a marriage lasting less than two years, the immigrant is typically deported. However, there are some situations in which the immigrant can stay in the United States. For example, if the immigrant would face extreme financial hardship, then they may be allowed to stay. The immigrant partner may also be allowed to stay if they were abused or treated cruelly by the spouse. Also, if the marriage was entered in good faith and ended due to no fault of the immigrant, then they may be allowed to stay. If the couple had a child or owned property together, those would be examples of a marriage entered in good faith.

Other Issues

If a couple is divorcing after two years, it could affect citizenship status because there is a three-year residency requirement for immigrants married to Americans. The immigrant, however, will be able to stay in the United States.

A divorce could also affect the immigration status of the immigrant’s relatives. For example, if the immigrant was hoping to bring over siblings or parents, then their applications for immigration will likely be denied.

As an immigrant, you may worry about property status and child custody. These decisions are made based on the laws of your state as well as the best interests of the child. A person’s immigration status should not affect either of these outcomes.

Contact a Divorce Lawyer Today

Divorcing an immigrant spouse comes with consequences for both parties. If you are considering marrying an immigrant or you are an immigrant planning on marrying an American citizen, you need to know how to protect yourself. Getting a prenuptial agreement may be in your best interest.

If you are considering divorce, Brooklyn divorce lawyer Theodore Alatsas ESQ can find ways to protect you, whether or not your marriage was fraudulent. Call his office at (718) 233-2903 to schedule a consultation.